Sunday, September 29, 2019

Forbidding Joy

I shouldn't have been surprised when it happened, all the warning signs had been there. I would be happily processing photos in Lightroom, my battery at 50% or more when suddenly the screen would go black. I couldn't get it back until I plugged it into the charger and hit the eject button. It always came back. Until it didn't. One morning I flipped open the lid of my seven year old laptop and was greeted with the black screen. It had already been charging all night.

I Googled MacBook Pro and black screen and tried all the various suggested fixes, and in a brief moment of joy I thought I had done it. I was able to load the photos I had taken that morning for a project I am working on, process the ones I wanted and exit out of Lightroom without a problem. At lunch when I flipped up the screen, blackness greeted me. There was no bringing it back this time. It was done.

I had been hoping to delay the purchase of a new laptop until the end of the year. Switching everything over in January. A new beginning at a new beginning. But that was not to be. The time had come to make a trip to the Apple store.

It wasn't that I didn't want a new computer, I did. I knew everything would be so much faster. It wasn't adjusting to something new, we learn new things much faster than we expect. It wasn't that I was afraid to spend the money (much to my husband's chagrin), I had been budgeting for a new computer for a while. What I was afraid of was transferring all the precious data. By God's grace, I had done a backup the day before it died. But still, could I trust that everything would transfer smoothly and quickly. I envisioned days of transferring, and having to reload Lightroom and Photoshop, praying that seven years of photographs would all end up in the correct place. Yes, I was scared.

I am really good at forbidding joy. I bought my new laptop on a Thursday. I didn't take the plastic off the box until Monday. I kept telling myself that I didn't have the quiet or the hours that I needed to focus on this process. Finally Monday afternoon after lunch and taking the dog for one more walk, I got the little red Swiss Army knife out of the drawer and slit the plastic wrap.

All my fears were unfounded. It was so intuitive to set up, the backup obviously making a huge difference. My Lightroom and Photoshop programs are subscription based so I just had to log in. The only small annoyance was that I had to download a new Adobe Cloud desktop app, which also went very smoothly. A lot has changed in seven years.

How many things do we put off due to fear? And then when we actually do them are so easy that we want to kick ourselves and say, "You should have done that sooner." When will we learn there is nothing to gain from forbidding joy, and everything to gain from taking action?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Box of Memories

We all have one, an old shoe box or stationary box, shoved to the back of a hall or bedroom closet.

The box may have originally belonged to our grandmother or a great-aunt, but somehow we have become the keeper of it.

Inside is a jumble of memories: childhood moments, former cars and houses, and gone-but-not-forgotten beloved pets.

What do we do with this hodgepodge of visual stories? We were trusted with the box, trusted to keep the memories alive. But how can this be done when there is no complete story?

We write a new story with the bits and pieces.

But what happens when we take our responsibility to be a box keeper so seriously; that when we see somebody else's box of memories on a table at an antique store we must buy that box too.

We feel a deep sense of sadness that nobody is willing or able to be the keeper of these memories.

We're not quite sure how we will write this story of someone else's life, but we are willing to try. Even if that story is just some pretty pictures of forgotten memories in a box.

**Module Three of the photography class I am taking is all about Still Life photography. I am not much of one for pretty styled photo shoots, so I instead I found my way to tell a story with a still life set up. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

This Is Real Life

"Is this real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.
Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see, I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy.
Because I'm easy come, easy go, little high, little low
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me."
Bohemian Rhapsody ~ Queen 

I'm sorry if those lyrics are stuck in your head now. They have been stuck in mine all week, so I thought I would share.

This was week 2 or Module 2 of the photography class I am taking - A Month of Multiples taught by Kim Klassen. The theme this week was documenting real life. There was a slew of suggestions for what to do for your real life series. I decided to document my daily morning walks with Atticus and make it a five day series. We would explore one of our favorite destinations every morning. 

Of course the "finish" of the daily walk/project was posting the photos from our morning walk as a Story on Instagram. I chose to use the new-to-me app Unfold. I can not express enough how much I love this app. Now, Instagram on the other hand, I have a love/hate relationship with. 

Photo Credit: Karen Lakis

On the hashtag #amonthofmultiples you will see a lot of beautiful photos, but I have to question - is this real life? And even my personal friends where posting photos of dreamy walks, gorgeous flowers and tranquil morning coffee scenes. And I am taking photos like this...

On the surface, people would call me out and say my photos were dreamy and tranquil as well, but the reality is that for every ten I took, I got one where Atticus was looking at the camera, and not ripping the flowers off a bush at a public garden, or munching on a stick, or yanking on my arm as I tried to push the shutter button on my phone. 

That is real life. Why are we afraid to share what real life looks like? The clutter, the mess, the upside down photos, which yes can be fixed, but isn't the story better in the original version?

I will occasionally look back at my daughter's early years and let out a sigh of frustration. Why did the counters have to have so much stuff on them? Why was my house so messy? Oh right! Because I lived there and had a young child with toys and two dogs, and not a lot of storage space. That was real life. 

If you looked at my counter right now you would see a tray of blueberries drying, two loaves of hot, out-of-the-oven banana chocolate chip bread cooling, an open box of crackers, a half eaten cheese board, and a half empty bottle of wine, a calculator (no idea why that is out), and an open recipe binder. I no longer have a young child, most days only one dog, and I have lots of storage, but still the clutter remains.

When I talked to my friend about her tranquil morning coffee with her grand pup, I realized it wasn't as tranquil as it seemed. She was trying to balance a cup of coffee, her camera and hold the pup's leash, and get a decently composed shot. All is not as it seems. Tranquility comes with work. After seeing her photo, I tried to duplicate a similar one with Atticus, minus the coffee. It looks pretty good, but in reality he is trying to eat that leaf on the ground. Thankfully the blur diminishes that reality.

I love taking and sharing a beautiful photo as much as anybody else, but there is a whole lot of real life that happens before that photo become reality.

My Instagram feeds for both my Atticus Adventures @paisleyandatticus and my feed for my art and photography @twistedroadstudio will never be influencer perfect, but they will be real.

**Thanks to my friend Karen for allowing me to use her photograph and for the great conversation this week about real life and everything in-between.  Please check out her blog Gingham Notebook for her take on real life.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

One Spot Wonder

"Do not be afraid to walk the path that you must go just because you cannot see the end. The path becomes clearer as you continue to go on."   ~ Tracy Allen

This past week I started a new photography class with a group of friends. The core group of us have been friends since the Summer of 2012. Seven years already. How did that happen? Through those seven years, we have enfolded a few other kindred souls. You may be wondering where we meet. Good question. We meet online, in a Facebook group that was born out another class we all took together from the delightful online instructor Kim Klassen. The class was on blogging. That was how we began our lives together.

Our new photography class is once again taught by the talented Kim Klassen. It has been a while since she has taught a photography class, and it has been a while since I have taken one focused on adventures with my camera. I was excited, and I was excited to share the adventure with my friends.

I went out shooting Monday and Tuesday mornings. First to a sunflower field recommended by a friend, and then to the lake near my house for sunrise and boat photos. Our first lessons were on framing and focus. Good refresher lessons.

I was eager to share my photos with my friends in the group. But, I didn't want to be the only one sharing photos, so Monday night I gave them a pep talk. I love to be one who inspires, but I also need others to inspire me. This is a group of highly talented women - photography, art, writing - they are amazing. I encouraged them to go out, do the lessons, and post their photos. None of us signed up and paid the money for the course to have it just sit in our inboxes.

My encouragement must have worked because on Tuesday photos started to flood the group.  Not everybody in the group is in the class, but I pleaded for everyone in the group to please share photos, I know they have them.

I hope we can keep this momentum going.

Friday morning, I had to heed my own advice. I had planned to go out shooting. I had gathered my gear Thursday night. I had my location picked out. But when I woke up Friday morning, the last thing I wanted to do was get moving right away so I could be at my location and ready to shoot for the sunrise at 6:59 a.m. I thought, maybe I will just take the dog for a walk and then work on my art class, that is something I can do in any light. But then I heard my own voice in my head saying the same words to myself that I had written to them. So I quickly showered, skipped breakfast, left my husband in charge of the dog, grabbed my camera bag and left the house.

I did change my mind from my original location idea, and it bought me an extra half hour before the sun licked the features of my main subject. For class, one of our assignments was to stay and photograph in one spot - ideally a four to five foot radius. When the dog and I had been hiking at this park the day before I thought the bridge would be perfect place for the one spot challenge. 

I did wander more than five feet, but I did stay on the bridge the whole time, so that counts as one spot. Once out there, and as the sun began to come up, I forgot about my lack luster attitude for going out to photograph, and was really glad I listened to the voice in my head.

I spent an hour on the bridge. I never saw another person. I hear a lot of nature noises: ducks quacking, acorns sounding like rain as they slipped free of the tree branch and pelleted the leaves on their way to the ground. Lovely bird songs, and something larger and louder crashing around at the edge of the river upstream.

Every time I turned around, looked up or looked down, I saw something else that I wanted to photograph. Eventually though, the sun was getting too high and too bright. It was time to go home, make a cup of tea, eat breakfast and take the dog for a walk in the woods.

As much as I hate to admit it, it was that low sunrise light that made these photographs magical. The light inspired me to keep looking, to keep shooting.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Garden Recommendations

Asking for help does not come easy for me. I think that is largely due to my German/Italian heritage. If you are physically and mentally capable, you figure it out and do it yourself. This is why I will probably never have a cleaning lady. When I do ask for help it is because I need something hung on the wall, that usually doesn't go all that well.

But, last week I reached out and asked for recommendations on FB for local flower farms where I could go photograph. I know this seems such a low hurdle in the help-asking arena, but for me it was still hard. I have Google at my fingertips, and with my many years of wandering, I should be able to figure it out. What I have learned though is that people want to help.  Within 24 hours, I had three awesome recommendations.

The flower farm was for Exercise 36 in the book Shooting with Soul. You are probably tired of reading about this book every time I post, but I need this book and these exercises to get out of my daily rut. Without the book, my wanderings are limited to walks with the puppy at the beach, in the woods, at the park, and downtown. Wash, rinse, and repeat. I need my brain and my eyes to be challenged to look for something new, to think new thoughts, and to get out with my big camera by myself.

Now if you have the book and look at Exercise 36, you might wonder what am I talking about - going to a flower farm? The lesson instructs you to buy fresh flowers, arrange them and photograph them in your home. I will get to that this winter when there is nothing to do outside. I am choosing to follow just the last couple sentences: "Then, with input from all of your senses, take photos that infuse your images with your thoughts and feelings. Repeat as needed throughout the year."

As I said I received three recommendations, and I plan to explore them all, but I started with the one closest to my house. Sunrise is at 6:43 and I wanted early morning light, but I didn't want to leave the house at five o'clock. Plus my recommendation came from the wife of the owner of the wholesale garden I was going to.

The funny thing is, more than a decade ago, I actually worked in these display gardens for a few summers. I worked for a friend who was contracted to maintain the large gardens. I haven't been back in many years. Some of it felt familiar, but a lot of it felt so different. It was the perfect combination of comfort and exciting new discoveries.

This week, I also started a new art class from Laly Mille - Soulful Abstracts. One of the first exercises we had to do was find images on Pinterest based on questions about ourselves.  My finds were the color palette I expected, although I feel my green color is more clearly defined now, what did surprise me was how dark and moody a lot of the images were. That dark moody feeling definitely influenced my photography at the garden. I might be in love. I looked at everything with a completely new perspective.

This is going to be a really good class for my art and my photography.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

To The Market We Shall Go

We all start with an understory to our day long before we ever walk out the door. It could be something as simple as the fact that we ran out of time to make coffee, or that our new underwear doesn't fit like our old, favorite underwear. Or it could be more complex: we are tired of waking up alone every morning, or our old dog stumbled down the steps to go outside...again.

Maybe that is why the series I use to write - The Coffee Shop Chronicles - did so well. There was always was an undercurrent to my day long before I reached the coffee shop to peer into other peoples' lives. I think in the busyness of my life this year with a puppy I haven't taken the time to acknowledge that understory. At least that is until last week when I set out to do Exercise 31 - Markets and Stalls in the photography exercise book Shooting with Soul.

Before I leave the house at any given time, I always take the puppy out to go to the bathroom before he goes in his crate. As we pitter puttered down the bike path, I noticed the neighbor across the street's dog coming down his driveway. Odd, I had heard his car that morning when he left for work, and his dog is always in the house when he is at work. Maybe his teenage daughter was home and let the dog out. I quickly sped Atticus back to the house. These two dogs had met the night before, Atticus loves everybody, the other dog didn't feel the same.

Atticus zipped into his crate, I wrestled with the thought of trying to catch the neighbor's dog and knock on his door, but when I went back outside she had disappeared. Maybe the daughter was home.

I left for the Farmers Market, but my mind kept going back to that dog and our busy summer traffic road.

Once at the Farmers Market I forgot about the dog. I grabbed my camera and my 35mm lens for some wide/establishing shots of the market. I was at the market just after 8 a.m., it wasn't busy yet. I wanted photos of the stalls, not photos of crowds. I turned my camera on to check the settings needed for the light and noticed the blinking battery light. You have got to be kidding me. I just used this camera two weeks before, and I had plenty of battery. Knowing I always keep an extra charged battery in my camera bag, I went back to the car to get it. After a thorough search of my camera bag, I found no extra battery. Seriously!

I decided I was just going to see how long I could go with this blinking battery. I wasn't going to go home and come back. It would take too long, the light would be too bright and I was afraid I would find the neighbor's dog lying on the road.

This exercise made me very uncomfortable. It was great that it wasn't busy with a lot of people, but I felt so exposed, wandering with my big camera. Now, if I had been wandering around with my iPhone snapping photos, I would have blended right in. The funny thing is when I see other people with their DSLR at the market I only wonder what they are going to shoot.

This feeling of being uncomfortable inhibited my ability to set up shots with thoughtful composition and I gave no consideration to the story I wanted to tell. Still, I pushed on. Determined to keep trying until the battery quit, which it was surely going to do at any moment.

After about a half hour, the light was getting too high and market too crowded for any more shots. It was time to go home. The battery never did die.

As I crested the rise of the hill near my house, I saw the neighbor dog wander across the road from our house to her house. I parked the car in the garage, grabbed Atticus' leash and went across the road. She was sitting, shaking on her front porch. She came to me readily and let me put the leash on her. I called the neighbor's work and asked that a message be given to him. We sat on the porch, she resting in my lap, until his car pulled into the driveway about ten minutes later.